The hijacking of passenger planes U.S. reopens embargo sanctions on nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises

In response to the Belarusian Lukashenko regime’s May 23 forced landing of a civilian flight by fighter jets to arrest an independent journalist and his companion, White House spokesman Jen Psaki announced on May 28 that the United States will reimpose a comprehensive embargo and sanctions on nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises starting June 3, 2021.

“Belarus’ forced diversion of a Ryanair commercial flight traveling between two EU member states on false grounds, followed by the removal and arrest of Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich, is a direct affront to international norms,” reads a statement released Friday by the White House. The statement said, “These events come amid an escalating wave of repression by the Lukashenko regime against the Belarusian people’s aspirations for democracy and human rights. In response to the events of May 23 and the Lukashenko regime’s continuing attacks on fundamental freedoms, the United States is taking the following actions.”

The White House described that “the United States has joined public condemnation of the May 23rd events at the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Group of Seven (G7), and NATO. We will continue to advocate in these bodies for action against the Lukashenka regime for offending international norms and undermining democracy and human rights.” The statement said, “The State Department has issued a Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ warning to U.S. citizens, urging them not to travel to Belarus. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a Notice to Airmen warning U.S. passenger carriers to exercise extreme caution when considering flying in Belarusian airspace.”

The White House said, “On June 3, 2021, the United States will reimpose full embargo sanctions on nine Belarusian state-owned companies that previously received relief under a series of general permits from the Treasury Department. As a result of this measure, U.S. persons will be prohibited from engaging in transactions with these entities, their property, or interests in their property.” The White House said the U.S., in coordination with the European Union and other partners and allies, is developing a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Lukashenko regime in connection with ongoing human rights abuses and corruption, 2020 election fraud and the events of May 23. “The Treasury Department will develop a new executive order for presidential review that will provide the United States with additional authority to impose sanctions on members of the Lukashenko regime, its support network, and those who support corruption, human rights abuses, and attacks on democracy,” the White House said.

The U.S. Department of Justice, including the FBI, is working closely with its European counterparts on the matter. The U.S. will also suspend the discretionary application of the 2019 U.S.-Belarus Air Services Agreement. The White House said, “We are taking these steps with our partners and allies to hold the regime accountable for its actions and to demonstrate our commitment to the aspirations of the Belarusian people. We call on Lukashenko to allow a credible international investigation into the events of May 23, the immediate release of all political prisoners, and a full and genuine political dialogue with democratic opposition leaders and civil society groups, leading to free and fair presidential elections under the auspices and supervision of the OSCE.”